Last Friday saw the launch of the 2015 Boyne Valley Food series, as part of the Boyne Valley conference. Spread across the counties of Meath and Louth, the Boyne Valley encompasses world renowned heritage sites including the World Heritage Site at Bru na Boinne, the Battle of the Boyne site, Trim Castle and Mellifont Abbey. To me, the area is beautiful; green and lush, the way you’d expect Ireland to be and crammed full of sites and ruins. I have my favourite foodie destinations and local artisan products, but never before had I realised just how much my little part of the world had to offer.
The evening was introduced by distinguished food and hospitality writer Georgina Campbell; she explained that “food tourism has huge potential” and that the Boyne Valley region has “history and mystery” on its side as it looked to the future. However she urged that more interest was needed from cafes, pubs, hotels and restaurants in order to showcase the wonderful produce to the public.
She praised Chef Jean Michel Chevat from the CityNorth Hotel on creating a menu that featured:
Slane Bake; my cute local bakery who do yummy breads and gorgeous tarts!
Blast and Wilde; winners of Supreme Champion at the Blás na hÉireann 2014 Awards.
Newgrange Gold; who have an amazing smoked oil launching soon (watch this space…)
Morgans Fine Fish; who have been in business for over 150 years!
Kerrigans Mushrooms; they do loose fresh mushrooms, pre-packed fresh mushrooms, value added ready to cook mushroom products, sliced mushrooms, customised mixes, exotic and organic mushrooms…
Burke’s Farm; makers of delicious Jersey milk ice cream and sorbets (and my new best friends)!
The Whole Hoggs; who keep the very rare breed of Irish Grazer, making their own sausages, rashers and rather yummy pudding!
Boyne Grove Fruit Farm; based in Drogheda, county Louth
Derrycamma Farm; Located just outside Castlebellingham, they grow wheat , barley, oats and oilseed rape using eco till techniques
Meade Potatoes; producers of potatoes, fruit, vegetables and flowers.
The Oriel Sea Salt Company; “located on one of the world’s most beautiful and mesmerizing coastal headlands with the mountains of Mourne in the distance. This is the actual birthplace of Ireland and it must be seen to be believed”.
Sheridan’s Cheese Company; makers of cheese, chutney and handmade crackers
Glyde Farm Produce; producers of Bellingham Blue Cheese.
Boyne Valley Goat Farm; producers of Boyne Valley Blue Cheese
Lannléire Honey; locally produced from the natural flora of county Louth by native Irish honey bees.
Chez Emily; The couverture chocolate used is from Belgium and is a high quality chocolate that contains only cocoa butter. No substitutes or additives are used in the chocolate in place of the cocoa butter and this gives the chocolate a creamy mellow flavour, a shiny appearance and a snappier snap!
Coole Swan Superior Cream Liqueur; Coole Swan was born by blending the finest Single Malt lrish Whiskey with White Belgium Chocolate and Fresh Cream.
Slane Castle Whiskey; a small batch, premium blend of Irish single malt and grain whiskeys which are made and matured in the traditional Irish style that has remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years.
Bru; The philosophy of the brewery is to produce not only great tasting Irish craft beer, but that they are also 100% naturally brewed and chemical free.
Olivia Duff officially launched the Boyne Valley Food Series 2015 by inviting producers and restaurateurs to tell their stories and promote their businesses. Over the past couple of years over 50 food related businesses have come together to hold events over the course of the Summer months.
So on to the evening itself; there was a Pre-Dinner Drinks Reception with Stameen Farm Apple Juice, Dan Kelly’s Cider, Red Headed Ale, Coole Swan, Bru and Slane Castle whiskey. It was a first outing for Harvest Brewhouse Red Headed Ale, the drinks were from the first barrel of beer to be produced!
The drinks were accompanied by extremely tasty (I sooooo wanted more) canapés;
Spinach and Boyne Valley Blue Cheese served with cranberries
Feta Cheese, Sundried tomato and pesto
Whole Hogg Sausages in Brioche served with sour cream
Morgan’s Fine Fish mini Salmon bagels with onion marmalade
To say that I was excited by the time we actually sat down for dinner is an understatement! The room was beautifully decked out, and throughout the evening blasts of the Corrs and Riverdance could be heard. To start us off, we had a selection of freshly baked breads from Slane Bake with Newgrange Gold oils and Blast and Wilde butters. All three producers are dear to my heart, so I knew I’d enjoy picking away (and I did)!
The starter was an assiette of Irish salmon, beetroot gravadlax, ballotine, seaweed roulade from Morgans Fine Fish. It was simply stunning; so fresh and light that it convinced me that I’d be well able to munch my way through the next six courses!
Now I’m not a soup fan and I’m not a mushroom fan, so I wasn’t really looking forward to the next course… However, the Kerrigan’s mushroom soup with mushroom wontons was delicious. It was smooth and rich and beautifully accompanied by Slane Bake breads and Blást Wild Irish Garlic & Pesto butter.
What came next was the highlight of my night, Burke’s farm blood orange sorbet. The refreshing treat held the amazing flavour of the seasonal fruit really well. I immediatley jumped onto their Facebook page to beg for a 50 litre tub!
The main courses consisted of braised pork belly, black pudding, Bellingham blue cheese, sweet potato fondant and a bittersweet sauce, (produced by The Whole Hoggs, Dan Kelly’s Cider, Glyde Farm and Meade Potatoes). Or a pan fried cod, crab risotto, spring onions, bisque sauce produced by Morgans Fine Fish. Both mains were served with farm fresh carrots, cabbage and swede and baby roasters from Meade Potatoes. The majority of guests opted for the pork belly (as I did), and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the black pudding which seemed to have a hint of cumin through it, which cut through the rich pork belly perfectly.
The dessert was a slightly warm coconut rice pudding, exotic fruits, with Burke’s Farm bitter chocolate sorbet. The rice pudding was almost set like a cake and was complimented perfectly by mango and pineapple along with the dark, bitter chocolate. As a fellow guest commented, it had a slight “Bounty flavour” about it.
With bowls cleared away, a board of local cheeses was produced; Boyne Valley Blue, Bellingham Blue and Glebe Brethan were served with Sheridan’s crackers and chutney and Lannléire honey.
Finally, there was tea and coffee along with chocolates by Chez Emily. These little petit fours were just fabulous, I’ll definitely be visiting the local shop.
As if all that weren’t quite enough, there was a final round of Coole Swan. I must admit that I’d never tasted the liqueur before last Friday night, how did I miss out on it? As their little card says “Chocolate for pleasure, Coole Swan forever”, agreed!
It was an unforgettable evening; I’m extremely proud to live in the Boyne Valley region, with its rich heritage and history and its magnificent produce.